As adoption and implementation of the Digital Advertising Alliance's (DAA) self-regulatory program for online behavioral advertising begins to permeate the online ad industry, the body is now attempting to enforce compliance among major publishers and networks.
The DAA program calls upon firms involved in online behavioral advertising to place an icon alongside every behaviorally targeted ad informing consumers of how and why that impression was targeted to them, and to provide an opportunity for users to opt out of such targeting.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) are coordinating enforcement efforts on behalf of the DAA, and the BBB has already begun reaching out to larger online ad vendors seeking proof of their alignment with the program's principles.
"People should be in compliance now. We don't expect head scratching at this point, we expect commitment," said Genie Barton, director of the Council of Better Business Bureaus' online interest-based advertising accountability program. According to Barton, 100 companies have already been contacted by the BBB over the past two weeks, and parties that are not currently compliant are at least expected to provide evidence of their intentions to become so.
"We're taking the view that different companies have different sets of difficulties to surmount in order to make this work. If companies tell us they're already working with a vendor or trialing a system, we'll come back to them in a few months. If they tell us they're just thinking about it, we'll get back to those companies in a couple of weeks," Barton said.
The Bureau is contacting companies in approximate order of size, starting with major publishers and behavioral ad networks, before it moves down the long tail. Although there's no official deadline for compliance, Barton said the DAA expects the majority of companies involved with online behavioral advertising to become so by the end of this year at the latest.
"We're certainly not talking the middle of next year, we're not even talking the end of this year. If a company can't show us now that they're taking steps, then we're already quite concerned," Barton said. The DMA, meanwhile, said in January that it expected its own members to be compliant with the principles, and began pressurizing them to become so.
Though the DMA and the BBB have said they intend to name and shame non-compliant companies - as well as pass their details on to regulators such as the FTC - both stressed that their primary intention is to promote uptake of the DAA program and icon. "Our aim is to work with the industry to create compliance, and we intend to work with companies to do so," Barton said. The DMA and BBB now conduct weekly calls to ensure their regulatory efforts aren't duplicated.
The DAA program was formulated largely in response to scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission, which implied in December that the industry was doing too little to protect the privacy of consumers online, and suggested the introduction of a "do-not-track mechanism" for online advertising.
The DAA and companies involved with online behavioral advertising have implied that the self-regulatory program offers users suitable control over the way their data is collected and used without the need for legislation.
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Jack Marshall was a staff writer and stats editor for ClickZ News from 2007 until August 2011.